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Stopping Davis will be key for the Packers.

: If the Green Bay Packers are going to prove themselves anything other than a mediocre team this season, this is where their run begins.

The Packers match up favorably with the 49ers. On offense, San Francisco runs the ball and when they pass, their main weapon is tight end Vernon Davis. The Packers strength on defense is stopping the run and they’ve shut down opposing tight ends in recent weeks, behind the play of Charles Woodson.

On defense, the 49ers are stout against the run and poor against that pass. They also have problems getting to the quarterback. This, of course, plays right into the Packers hands.

The key, as it usually is, will be protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Against the 49ers, that should be an easier job than normal for the Packers. I would still expect coach Mike McCarthy to employ quick passes and short drops, but that should be more than enough to get the job done.

Packers 17, 49ers 10

Steffen: Following the Green Bay Packers stupefying loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I declared the season completely finished. Citing the mountain of penalties, sacks and a tentative defense, I expected the bottom to drop out against the Cowboys – but the Pack proved me wrong.

Or did they?

I’ll make the argument that they proved me right. There was still giant heap of penalties that the Packers had to overcome. So, they still haven’t figured those issues out. I had also been begging Dom Capers to turn the defense loose. It’s their best chance to win. Lo and behold, Dom did just that and his defense wound up dominating the third-ranked offense in the league.

Are the Packers frauds? I don’t know. I won’t start speculating on their playoff hopes until they string together at least  a couple convincing wins. If Green Bay maintains the safer quick release offense deployed against the Cowboys AND if Dom Capers decides to continue dialing a balls to the wall aggressive defense they just might go on a tear.

The Packers haven’t displayed this much swagger and confidence since the 2007 season, so if they keep the game plan I mentioned above in place, they are poised to make a run.

San Francisco comes into this game hungry. They have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but sub-par quarterback play and injuries have prevented them from taking the next step, this season. With a tenacious defense of their own and plenty of gamebreakers on offense, San Francisco should not be taken lightly.

But the edge has to be given to Green Bay. It’s a home game and they have an intimidating amount of momentum. The other intangible is Aaron Rodgers. Much has already been made of his first matchup with Alex Smith, whom Rodgers’ hometown team took with the first pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. This started an epic draft day slide for Rodgers and he fell all the way to the Packers at pick 21.

While Smith and Rodgers’ careers have gone in decidedly different directions, and while the decision makers who put Rodgers in that situation are no longer with San Francisco, expect Rodgers to play with a chip on his shoulder. Like Brett Favre’s angry, on fire play against the Packers earlier this season, Rodgers will come out swinging, taking the opportunity to prove that San Francisco – and much of the league – made a big, big mistake in 2005.

Packers 31, San Francisco 17

Sarah: Will the real Packers please stand up? To say this team is confusing is an understatement, and I’m not sure they even know who they are yet this season. But they’re coming off an impressive defensive win over Dallas and getting back a few key players, like tight end Jermichael Finley, from injuries.

Mike Singletary’s San Francisco 49ers have a great run defense, but they’re not that great against the pass, and I think that will be key in this game. If the O-line can protect Aaron Rodgers, he should light it up with a healthy corps of offensive weapons.

The other key will be stopping San Francisco’s Frank Gore, who’s racked up 550 yards so far this season en route to another 1,000-yard performance. QB Alex Smith has yet to throw for 300 yards since stepping in for the awful Shaun Hill, and San Francisco’s only offensive threat on the receiving end is tight end Vernon Davis. And he’s only had one 100-yard game all season.

The point is, the Packers should win this game. But San Francisco has really shaped up under Singletary’s watch and is much more disciplined, especially on the road. Singletary already beat his former team, the Bears, on Nov. 12. And I’m sure he’d love to beat his former rival in Green Bay, too. His team will be prepared.

Still, this is the Packers game to lose.

Packers 21, 49ers 17


Monty McMahon

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.